CLEVELAND — It is looking increasingly likely that the 2023 season will be Terry Francona's last as manager of the Guardians.
For the better part of the last two weeks, Cleveland's longtime skipper has alluded to his potential retirement, owing to his age and continued health struggles. Speaking to SiriusXM's MLB Network Radio on Tuesday, the 64-year-old did not explicitly say he would be stepping down, but came about as close as he could without actually doing it.
"It's time," Francona admitted, "and my body's telling me that, my head's telling me that, and I don't want to stay on for the wrong reasons."
"Tito" is both Cleveland's longest-tenured and winningest manager, leading the team to 911 victories and six playoff appearances over 11 years including an American League pennant in 2016. With 1,940 total wins to his credit as well as a pair of World Series championships with the Boston Red Sox, he is a virtual shoe-in for baseball's Hall of Fame once his career is over.
But as Francona has gotten older, his health has begun to fail him, and his missed much of the 2020 and 2021 seasons due to various ailments including a hip that needed to be replaced. While he has mostly returned to the dugout since, the physical troubles continue to mount, and he plans on having shoulder replacement surgery as well as a pair of hernia operations this winter.
"I've been pretty clear with the guys I've worked for and told them to start preparing," Francona said today of the Guards' front office, "because it's time."
So, with his clear desire to get healthy and the Guardians mired in what has been a frustrating campaign, why doesn't Francona just announce his retirement now?
"I think I've been pretty clear with people: I don't want to have the last month be like a send-off or, you know, a pity party," he stated. "That's not how I feel."
And while the organization has indicated it is "preparing," nothing has been made official, nor has any type of succession plan surfaced. As it stands, the manager's job remains Francona's for as long as he wants it.
The Guardians enter Tuesday six games behind Minnesota in the AL Central, likely needing to win both of these next two games with the Twins to have any hope of repeating as division champions.